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David Freeze: A perspective on ‘Pay to Play’

For several years, there has been talk of increasing the rates for the City of Salisbury services surrounding the running events within city limits. The new 17-page application that replaces the current five-page one is quite extensive. When I first read through it, I was overwhelmed with all the potential charges.

At this point, I am still trying to be objective about all the changes. First thing, the new fees are supposed to be based on something similar done in Raleigh, a city of 438,000, and Charlottesville, Va., closer to Salisbury’s size with a little over 43,000. Salisbury has a population of about 34,000.

The current fee to get a permit for a 5K is $25, for an 8K, still $25. The proposed fee takes these two charges to $150 and $250, but only if the application is received more than 120 days ahead of the proposed date. Add another $100 if the permit request is received less than 120 days ahead. Simply put, that is quite an increase.

That permit fee doesn’t include city services as it has before. Additional charges are mandated for specified numbers of police officers and firefighters, both of whom must be hired from off-duty staff for a minimum of two hours each at $25 per hour.

Add to that additional charges for the number of barricades and cones needed. There are still more charges to have a doctor or nurse on site, and more yet to allow vendors on site. I guess that is what might be considered “Pay to Play.”

Here is another side to this proposal. During 2016, Salisbury had 10 races and one triathlon. One had no entry fee and another asked for a $5 donation. Every single dollar of proceeds go to charities like Rowan Helping Ministries (twice), Prevent Child Abuse Rowan, Relay for Life, the United Way, the Knox PTA, Rotary, United Methodist Women and YMCA projects.

Here is a little more history. Two of the 10 annual races in Salisbury benefit the city, one held for the greenway and another for the fire department. In 2011, the last year that Salisbury was listed as a Fit Community (the signs are still posted upon entering town), the city asked for help in having a Fit Community 10K. Two 5Ks were requested by the Salisbury PD for police officers with serious medical issues, the most recent being the benefit for Wiley Lamm. Zero fees were charged by the Salisbury Rowan Runners for providing these races, even for the 20 years of the Run for the Greenway 5K.

Still more history must include the Winter Flight 8K that will be held at Catawba College on Jan. 29. This is the 34th annual event, the fourth oldest race in the state, a state championship event and is part of a southeast regional circuit. Last year, attendees came from at least six states. It is also the largest single participatory athletic event annually in Salisbury.

When races are held, a positive for most cities, visitors come and visit restaurants, lodging and plenty more. One race prepares a winner’s basket that highlights the downtown area by promoting things to see and do. Most of the races have bags with coupons and door prizes that further the same idea. From a runner’s perspective, the best times come from exploring the city after the stress of the event is over.

While still being objective, I heard one of the best race directors in town say, “This will make events such as ours difficult.” There were a few worse comments. Looks like we have already missed the deadline for getting a permit for Winter Flight 2017 if this program flies. That means $350 just to start talking about the event that has brought multiple Olympians to Salisbury. Then comes all the other charges added in, and every one of them means less proceeds going to RHM.

None of the running races listed above need PD or FD for two hours. But here is just one more thought: Doesn’t it look good for Salisbury to have these great folks be seen at such positive events? Less positive events like demonstrations and picketing have no mandated fees. Chances are, a lot more city personnel will be needed at these events.

The City of Salisbury was voted Community Partner of the Year by the Salisbury Rowan Runners and is listed on the shirts for every local event. Still being objective and realizing that some increase is justified, maybe we can do a little better than this.

Join us for the Melinda Weatherford 5K at Knox Middle School this Saturday, Nov. 19, and at the Forum’s Butterball 5K on Thanksgiving. (More information at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org.)

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

David Freeze is a nationally certified running coach and president of the Salisbury Rowan Runners. Email: david.freeze@ctc.net. 

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